It had been 21 years since Mexico faced Canada within the Gold Cup knockout stages. In 2000, Mexico lost 2-1 after a golden goal scored by Richard Hastings which set the stage for Canada’s first (and only) Gold Cup title so far . El Tri decided to not have history repeat itself but needed a 98th-minute goal from one among its most experienced veterans, midfielder Hector Herrera, to debar a troublesome Canada side which tested the mettle of the reigning Gold Cup champions. On an emotionally charged night which saw multiple scraps between players on each side, fans again singing an anti-gay chant which caused an interruption to live, and Mexico midfielder Jonathan dos Santos starting despite learning about the death of his father shortly before kickoff, El Tri moved on to its record 10th Gold final with a 2-1 win.
After his father Geraldo Francisco dos Santos (better referred to as Zizinho) gave up the ghost on Thursday afternoon, Dos Santos opted to play and was used for an hour before being subbed off for Erick Gutierrez. “Zizinho was an excellent person,” said defender Hector Moreno after the match. “I hope his family is okay, and from here, we send our most heartfelt condolences.” When Orbelin Pineda slotted a penalty past Maxime Crepeau within the half to open the scoring, the Mexico team embraced Dos Santos in recognition of his heartache. For long stretches of the semifinal clash, it seemed the whole team — not just Dos Santos — was twiddling with its heart on its sleeve.
After overwhelming its opponents early with an offensive onslaught almost like how it beat Honduras within the previous match, Mexico was struggling because the Canadians found ways to use their aggressiveness against them, eventually breaking through with an outstanding goal from Taejon Buchanan on a counter-attack within the 57th minute. “I think you’re seeing that Canadian grit, that Canadian resilience,” said Canada manager John Herdman within the postmatch press conference. “We can play and go toe-to-toe with the simplest in CONCACAF.”
Buchanan’s goal was the primary allowed by Mexico’s defense within the Gold Cup, snapping a streak of 417 minutes without conceding. Despite grabbing hold of the match early within the last half, Canada nearly put themselves behind again with a self-inflicted wound just five minutes after the equalizer. Mark-Anthony Kaye steamrolled Jesus Corona at the sting of the bench, gifting El Tri their second penalty kick of the match after referee Daneon Parchment confirmed the decision through VAR. Despite Pineda’s superb attempt within the half, it had been defender Carlos Salcedo who took on the responsibility, but the Tigres star had his shot blocked by Crepeau to stay the sport at 1-1.
“The players choose the sector,” said Mexico manager Gerardo Martino on why Salcedo took the penalty. “Salcedo had all of the support from his teammates and from [the coaching staff]. He had the arrogance to require the shot and it had been saved. it had been relevant to the sport, but I even have no discussed the kick taker.” shortly after Salcedo’s blunder, it might be the Mexico fans at Houston’s NRG Stadium who took center-stage for the incorrect reasons another time. The Mexico FA had already been sanctioned and fined by FIFA last month, but a second occurrence of the infamous anti-gay chant prompted Parchment to implement CONCACAF’s anti-discrimination protocol and halt the sport within the 88th minute.
The stoppage unintentionally allowed both teams to fix for the ultimate stretch, one punctuated by hard tackles on each side and therefore the last batch of substitutions from managers attempting to realize the whip hand. Rodolfo Pizarro nearly put Mexico ahead with a header inside the six-yard box up stoppage time, on the other hand, the striker — a late addition to Mexico’s roster after Hirving Lozano’s injury within the group stage — came up with a key pass to seek out Herrera at the highest of the 18-yard box up the ultimate minutes.
“We had four clear chances after [Canada tied it], that’s quite enough to think we deserved to win the sport,” Martino said in postmatch. “I would like to dominate every game for 90 minutes, but you cannot always do this .” After Herrera smashed the ball past Crepeau to attain the winner, he ran toward the sidelines to embrace Dos Santos. Herrera’s mother, Maria, gave up the ghost in March thanks to complications from COVID-19 and therefore the Atletico Madrid midfielder has bonded over shared grief together with his teammate.
This coming weekend — barely a month after their 3-2 defeat within the CONCACAF Nations League final on June 6 — Mexico will face us in search of their ninth Gold Cup title. Despite a shaky start and a general lack of authority within the tournament so far, El Tri has found how to succeed despite adversity and now has an opportunity for revenge over their rivals.